The following message was sent to all students, faculty and staff via email on Feb. 11.
Dear Members of the Campus Community:
We are pleased to announce the establishment of a University Police Department (UPD) Advisory Committee, to be launched this spring.
UPD Chief Mary Ritayik has taken the lead in thinking about the establishment of such a group, its focus, and its membership. Primary motivations for forming such a group were the systemic and recently amplified concerns across the country about police reform and police interactions with Black people and other marginalized groups, along with sustaining and growing the best traditions of good community policing on a public university campus.
The charge and purpose of our UPD Advisory Committee parallels similar committees on a number of SUNY campuses, most established recently. Such groups are considered a best practice in university community policing.
In June 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo mandated that municipal police agencies develop plans to reinvent and modernize police strategies and programs based on community input. That Executive Order is intended to be a single effort resulting in plans to be completed this spring. SUNY UPDs were not included in that mandate, but Chief Ritayik proposed, and we agree, that an ongoing community advisory group is consistent with the spirit of the Governor’s intent and with multiple campus goals of inclusivity and anti-racism.
This new advisory group will function alongside a longstanding advisory group within student governance; student turnover and the reality that different student leaders often have differing priorities for their leadership tenures has limited the effectiveness of the current group.
The purpose, charge, and membership of the Advisory Committee are described below. That document has evolved through extensive conversation with prospective members and others, and undoubtedly will continue to do so as this group begins its work.
Individuals who have agreed to serve as initial members include, in addition to Chief Ritayik:
Erin (Corbett) Beale ’05
Municipal police officer who has risen through multiple positions of increasing responsibility
Assistant Professor, Sociology, Director of Criminology concentration, special expertise in multiple dynamics of race in policing, extensive community engagement including with formerly incarcerated college-age men, member of College’s Diversity & Inclusion Council
Assistant Professor, Sociology, expertise in criminology especially surveillance and gender issues
Tevin Green ’21
Student Association representative, Business major
Matthew Kreuz ’21
Resident Hall Student Association representative, Economics/Political Science/German major
J.D., MBA, Adjunct Faculty in Black Studies, community leader in Newburgh, frequent presenter on cultural competence and implicit bias, including with multiple law enforcement agencies
Another African American alumnus with extensive experience in community-oriented policing and campus public safety at the federal level is interested in serving, pending approval from his employer.
In the future, we will add a small number of additional members, including an additional student, once this group has had an opportunity to begin its work.
Some of the early work of the Committee will be guided by the U.S. Justice Department 21st Century Policing Report published in 2015, key elements of UPD’s accreditation report (only about half of SUNY UPDs are accredited), and the UPD anti-racist commitment. This work may be informed by the outcomes of the SUNY Chancellor’s and Board of Trustees task force, one working group of which focuses on SUNY Policing, Law Enforcement, and Incarceration. Chief Ritayik has been invited and agreed to serve on this working group.
We will report regularly on the work and activities of this committee.
Donald P. Christian, President
Stephanie Blaisdell, Vice President for Student Affairs
The University Police Department Advisory Committee charge:
- To advise and make recommendations to the Vice President of Student Affairs and the Chief of Police concerning police services in regards to the campus community.
- To identify and support continued opportunities and actions for UPD to fulfill its inclusivity and antiracist commitments.
- To advance transparency and accountability of UPD operations and functioning.
- To serve as a two-way liaison between UPD and the campus community, including helping the campus community understand legitimate and beneficial work of UPD.
- To review and analyze data on UPD actions and on UPD’s responses to designated incidents to ensure that UPD is following departmental and accrediting-body policies and practices.
- To solicit public input regarding police services, public perceptions of UPD, programs, and campus safety, through periodic town hall meetings or other venues in order to make recommendations concerning UPD policies, services and programs.
- To prepare an annual public report summarizing the committee’s activities and overall performance of UPD.
- To support and advise on renewal of accreditation.
While independent of UPD, the committee does not supersede existing policies, procedures and bargaining agreements for UPD employees
The Committee will function independent of UPD. The committee’s responsibilities do not supersede or replace UPD’s own internal review and discipline procedures and cannot affect the established practices and responsibilities of the Office of Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion regarding labor-management practices and collective bargaining agreements. The committee has no authority to impose disciplinary action on UPD officers.
Committee composition, appointment process and reporting structure
The Committee will include 8-10 members, including students, faculty and staff, alumni, and others representing a cross-section of our campus community. Student members will include one representative each from the Student Association and the Residence Hall Student Association. Members will be appointed by the president, and the president, in consultation with the committee, will select a chair to serve a two-year term. Non-student member terms will be three years with potential renewal; when possible, student member terms will be multi-year to enhance continuity. A mechanism will be announced for self-nomination and nomination by others interested in serving on the committee once inaugural members step down at the end of their terms. The UPD Chief will be a member of the committee but will not serve as chair. The committee will report to the Vice President for Student Affairs.
As the Committee is being established, it will meet monthly for several months, later meeting quarterly or bi-monthly or more frequently if need arises.